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Reptile show snakes into Valley Mall

October 18, 2009|By JULIE E. GREENE

HAGERSTOWN -- Behnam Sari had a question about a couple of the small colorful snakes in one of the cages at Valley Mall on Sunday.

But what Behnam, 7, thought was a cage with just a few snakes in it turned out to contain a lot more, as one of the handlers started plucking snake after snake out of the wood shavings.

One had a red pattern, another orange. There was a brown one and a sandy one -- each about the thickness of a felt-tip pen and appearing to be about a foot long.

The rainbow collection of snakes was among the 50 to 60 reptiles and amphibians on display at the mall Saturday and Sunday.

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Dirk Voories, owner of Cold Blooded and Co. in Altoona, Pa., said he brings the animals to about a dozen shows a year, as a hobby.

He estimated thousands of people visited the exhibit over the weekend. Lines on Saturday steadily extended from in front of The Bon-Ton down a few stores to Victoria's Secret, for five to six hours.

The show included the opportunity to pet some of the animals as Voories and other handlers rotated some of the snakes, as well as a baby alligator, out onto a table so folks walking by could touch.

"It was pretty nice. They had a bigger selection than I thought they'd have," said Sarah Pfeiffer of Waynesboro, Pa. Pfeiffer's daughter Molly McIntyre, 3, got to touch the alligator, while 9-month-old Shaun Pfeiffer was held by his grandfather, Tom Pfeiffer, as he touched a large Burmese python.

A reticulated albino python was the favorite of several children, including Trenton McPherson, 7, of Halfway, and Logan Reed, 7, of Waynesboro, because of its size. The largest snake in the show, it extends to about 16 feet.

After pursing her lips in consideration, Madison Michael, 7, of Williamsport, said her favorite part of the show was touching the snakes.

"They felt smooth," she said.

After his father mentioned that Noah Michael, 4, might have been scared, Noah defiantly said, "I was not afraid."

Brian Michael said his favorite part was watching his kids checking out the animals: "Watching their eyes light up."

Lucas Bowers, 5, liked the alligator so much he wants one for a pet.

But his mom, Bobbie Bowers of Hagerstown, widened her eyes and shook her head "no."

"Definitely not," she said.

Lucas has a puppy and a guinea pig at home.

Debra "Pinki" Johnson, of Hagerstown, thought the hands-on exhibit was fantastic. Johnson brought her grandson, Behnam Sari, of Urbana, Md.

Some of the kids got to hold part of a snake while a handler held onto the snake's other end.

"I thought it was pretty cool," said Dylan Reed, 11, of Waynesboro. "It felt weird and it was pretty heavy," he said of the python he got to hold.

Dylan's cousin, Caroline Reed, 7, did not pet any snakes.

"I don't like snakes," she said matter-of-factly. "I didn't know snakes could get that big."

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